When we tell people that we’re traveling the world in this ambulance over the course of the next 8 years, a very common question is what we do about having our adult time and how to have sex in such open and close quarters.
The answer? It’s difficult. Constantly having to be quiet, or not move too much to avoid shaking the ambulance and waking the kid. Sometimes we send him out under a palapa in the hammock or in his own tent with the dog and his toys at night so we can have our separation. It’s not ideal, but neither is the way we are living our life to most people. We use stolen moments. For example, if we find a shower (think USA Federal and State parks), we’ll pop in there and do our business. Recently, we’ve been finding it difficult as we travel the interior of Mexico to find places to camp and spread out, so we’ve rented houses for two weeks. That has been helpful because we each have a separate room. Other than that, we make Kaden play outside until we tell him he can come back inside. Or if he’s out and about playing with other kids too busy to notice we’re not there, we take those moments. The short of it is, we find stolen moments and use them when we can. The topic comes up so often, I’ve consorted with other families doing the same thing. Some of them have actually built separate sleeping quarters for themselves away from their kids. That would be awesome, but our configuration doesn’t allow for that and many others in this lifestyle are driving vehicles smaller and more confined than us.
Another question we get is, how do we fund this trip? Are we super wealthy? The answer is: No. Not by a long shot. We have endured a great many hardships to get to where we are, as have most of the people traveling like we are. In the crash of 2006-2008, we lost everything. We lost a home to foreclosure because we moved and couldn’t sell it, changed jobs, filed for bankruptcy, had a baby and moved again to a family-oriented community. We re-built our credit and learned from the last crash, what not to do. We started watching the financial markets and looked into diversifying our investments. The thing we did have going for us was, we had always thrown money into a retirement account. Both of us had been saving for retirement. I started when I was 16, Bronson started when he was 23. When we transferred to public safety, both of us were able to use the money in our retirement accounts and roll it over to purchase an additional 5 years of service. We also took every pay raise and put that money into our retirement accounts. We looked at cost cutting around every corner, and never bought anything on credit. If we couldn’t afford to pay cash, we couldn’t afford it. Every credit card we had was always at 0% interest and would be paid off every month. We would buy things with credit cards to continue to build credit, we just never carried a balance. We’ve been living like this for the last 13 years. When we were both forced to retire, because we had already been living on so much less than we actually took in, the loss of income didn’t hit us very hard. I collect only 23% of what I was making when I was working and Bronson collects 52% of what he was making. We literally average less than 40% of our working salary, and we are still able to afford to travel around the world and not have to work.
Another question is “what about school?” The answer is: “what about it?” Having been on the road, non-stop for the last 8 months, we’ve been doing an online homeschooling program. I originally looked in to numerous state sponsored programs that were free. The problem is they require in person meetings every week and you get your homework assignments for the next week on Friday of the previous week and all assignments are due on the following Friday. We knew going into this that wasn’t going to be an option. Many places we plan on being are not going to have internet connection and I’m not flying home every week to have a meeting with a teacher for an hour. I found a great online private school called Keystone Online. They’re based out of Pennsylvania and the cost is around $2500.00 per year. They have a curriculum to follow and it can be done at your own pace over a 12-month period. It is 100% online and they also send you school books and materials so you don’t have to worry about coming up with a curriculum on your own and trying to register it with your home state. They offer Diplomas when the child has completed high-school and you are assigned a homeroom teacher should you have any questions. A friend of mine recently told us about a program called “out-school” You pay per course and you have numerous courses to choose from and the classes are scheduled on certain days and hours. There are programs like Khan Academy, Southwestern Advantage and International school online. I like Khan academy, they’re free. Southwestern Advantage is $20.00 USD per month, but I think you have to buy the equivalent of the set of encyclopedia Britannica in a set of 6 books. This set of books has 3 different ways to teach your child everything they need to learn in school all the way from Kinder to College. The courses include Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science etc. They also send 6 additional books about anatomy and physiology, space/astrophysics, zoology, earth science and so much more. The subscription also allows you to login to the Southwestern Advantage site which has a parent corner. The parent corner discusses all sorts of issues from scheduling as a new homeschooler, behavioral issues with the children, how to recognize when you the parent need a break and what to do. There’s a whole community out there waiting to help you if you need it. The short of it is, you need to find a program that works for whatever it is that you’re doing. I can e-mail Kaden’s homeroom teacher and tell her what our plans are for the day and have it take the place of his history lesson if I want. The school is very flexible with what you can substitute for learning as long as it fits within the category of Language arts, Science, Math, Social Studies or whatever elective course you’re taking.
The next question we get often, mostly from American and Canadian travelers who go to the same places year after year for decades is “aren’t you scared?” Our answer: “Scared of what?” The same things that happen anywhere you go is the same thing that will happen in your home country, state, city or town or province. It’s all relative. Often times I should have been way more scared to show up to work than to leisurely travel the world with my family. Sure, I may not be able to bring my weapons with me, and if I’m lucky, I’ll never have to use it for my personal protection. The same thing could be said for me being at home. I could be at home when something bad happens and guess what, I don’t wear my gun on my hip when I’m home. I could “what if” the shit out of the what could happen, but it doesn’t do me much good to overthink it. If I did that I’d never have left my house. The problem we see, as I can really only speak for America, is that our news is so tainted with all the bad shit that happens everywhere. What you don’t see is where those things are happening. It would be like me saying “there was a terrible mass murder in California, don’t go there.” Well folks, California is a big state with nearly 40 million people living in it. It encompasses nearly 164,000 square miles. If this mass murder thing in California happened in Los Angeles, does that mean you shouldn’t visit San Francisco which is 380 miles and 7 hours away? No. We don’t let fear govern our lives. We are smart about the places we go and the things we do. We don’t paint big targets on ourselves by having and showing off expensive stuff. We do our best to blend in where we can. Some places we go, the boys are so light skinned they stick out like a sore thumb and others where I am so dark I stand out. Just be smart about where you plan on going. Map a route to get there. Check resources on the internet and ask other local people. We were just told yesterday by a guy at the suspension shop that traveling south and east from here in Guanajuato is very safe, but still try not to drive at night unless absolutely necessary and if we do, stay on the toll roads. He also said it’s best not to drive at night because sometimes on the toll road, there are corrupt officials that will pull you over and impound your car and you’d have to wait to see a magistrate until the morning to get your vehicle back or pay them your hefty fine on the spot. So, note to self, don’t drive at night unless absolutely necessary. Just be vigilant and do some homework and make sure to have a back-up plan. Sometimes it’s best not to let the officials know you speak Spanish. You have to be able to read people and gauge a situation. Don’t do dumb shit.
The hardest thing about traveling in the interior of Mexico has been the lack of open camping. It seems that everywhere you go there is private property or a city. The streets in these places are pretty narrow once you get off of the Carreterra. We’ve had quite a few near misses that gave us pucker factor for sure. And since losing our ladder and partial solar panel with a hole through our roof under a “Puente” that was rated at 2.5 meters and we’re 2.5 meters tall we’re a little gun-shy about going under some of these bridges and in some tunnels where we can clearly see that tall vehicles have completely scraped the rocks with their roofs. I don’t want to do that again, it was bad enough the first time. Driving this ambulance in these cities is tough. Huge blind spots, you can’t look out to see behind you because you have an entire additional foot of space behind you that is blocked by the ambulance box so you only have mirrors. Usually I’m the one getting out and guiding Bronson to either back up or move into traffic. We can see behind us, but we can’t see to the sides of us and that’s a huge blind spot.
The next hard thing is that we have no personal space. This one is huge for me. I have always been independent. I love having my own space with my own stuff where I can go away and have total and complete quiet. Well, since being on this trip I’ve had none of that. NONE. And neither have they. We get on each other’s nerves all the time. There is some yelling, every now and again the crazy side of me comes out and I look and sound like the devil, but hey, I own that shit.
It’s not easy doing what we’re doing, but we make the best of it. The boys seem to throw their shit everywhere and cannot keep the inside clean. I’m constantly nagging them to pick up their shit and then they are always asking me if I’ve seen their stuff. No, I haven’t seen your stuff, but I guarantee if you always put it back in the same place you’ll never lose it. This concept seems to be lost on the boys and I can’t stand it. I’m constantly sweeping the floors, wiping down the countertops and dusting. I’m not saying I’m perfect. That is so far from the truth it’s not funny. We all have our shortcomings. I’m sure if I sat down and thought about it, the list of my shortcomings would be much longer than the boys combined. Bronson is by far the hardest worker of all of us. He researches everything that could and will go wrong with this vehicle. He’s already researching our next vehicle when we sell the ambulance and trade down to something smaller and more maneuverable. Yes, I said downsize even more. He is a tinkerer, so he’s really good at seeing how things function and can troubleshoot just about anything. Kaden is a sponge, so he’s soaking up a ton of knowledge about vehicle maintenance, school, chores, history, responsibility, self-initiation and getting a first-hand lesson of how pride can get in the way of your ability to learn. I’m the translator, teacher, grocery list maker and shopper, safety officer, finder of everybody’s everything, navigator and interior cleaner. We each have our roles and the longer we’re on the road, the more our roles change and intertwine. It’s important to stay fluid in responsibility. If one of us adults gets hurt, the other has to know how to take on the other roles.
We argue, we yell, we cry, we laugh. We even laugh sometimes because we can’t cry and it won’t do us any good to yell because there’s nobody to yell at and place blame on. We take the good with the bad because we are a family. Together there isn’t anything we can’t get through.